Wednesday, December 8News That Matters

TV shows, films, books and music to help you through another lockdown

With most of the UK back under lockdown, we’ll be shut indoors and looking for entertainment and escapism over the coming weeks. So here’s a selection of TV shows, films, books and music that could help make lockdown life a bit more bearable.

TV shows

Jenna Coleman and Tahar Rahim in The Serpent

  • The Serpent (BBC One) – Jenna Coleman and Tahar Rahim are a menacing couple who prey on backpackers in 1970s Bangkok, with a Dutch diplomat (Billy Howle) on their trail. This taut and atmospheric eight-part drama is on TV on Sunday nights – or binge

    on iPlayer.

  • Bridgerton (Netflix) – An eight-part sexually-charged period drama adapted from Julia Quinn’s romance novels of the same name, produced by US TV extraordinaire Shonda Rhimes. On Netflix.

A promotional still from ITV2's The Cabins


  • The Cabins (ITV2) – In the absence of Love Island, this Covid-secure dating show sees singletons paired up in winter cabins. The couples get to know each other for 24 hours before deciding whether they want to leave their cabin, or stay with their partner for another day. Airing nightly on ITV2, and on the ITV Hub.
  • Staged (BBC One) – Michael Sheen and David Tennant (or vice versa) were hilarious in one of the summer’s few Zoom-style lockdown shows that was genuinely good. They have reconnected for a second season, which is now on BBC iPlayer.
  • The Great (Channel 4) – A lavish period drama with its tongue firmly in its cheek. It charts the story of Catherine the Great’s rise from outsider to the longest-reigning female ruler in Russia’s history, starring Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult. Weekly on Channel 4 and All4.
  • Cobra Kai (Netflix) – Now in its third series, this US martial arts comedy is set decades after the Karate Kid films and pivots on the rivalry that still exists between the movies’ central characters Johnny and Daniel. Available now.
  • Pooch Perfect (BBC One) – With beauty salons shut for humans, Sheridan Smith invites us into the pooch parlour to see some of Britain’s hairiest hounds get made over by a group of 16 professional dog groomers competing to be crowned the best canine crimper. Begins on Thursday 7 January, then on iPlayer.
  • The Pembrokeshire Murders – (ITV) This three-part real-life drama follows the quest to track down the perpetrator of two double murders in the 1980s, played by Keith Allen and known as the “Bullseye killer” because he appeared on TV game show of that name. Begins on 11 January.
  • WandaVision (Disney+) – An intriguing Marvel spin-off that sees Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (played by Elizabeth Olsen) and android Vision (Paul Bettany) as a newlywed couple transported into the world of a 1950s-style US sitcom. Launches 15 January.
  • Dancing On Ice and The Masked Singer (ITV) – Myleene Klass and Rebekah Vardy are among those getting ready to hit the ice, while Sophie Ellis Bextor and Melanie B have so far been unmasked on the craziest guessing game on television. Dancing on Ice launches on Sunday 17 January, while The Masked Singer is on Saturdays and on ITV Hub.
  • Finding Alice (ITV) – An honest yet blackly comic six-part drama telling the story of Alice, who finds herself suddenly grieving and having to cope alone after the sudden death of her partner. The cast includes Keeley Hawes, Joanna Lumley and Nigel Havers. Expected to start in mid-January.
  • It’s A Sin (Channel 4) – Queen As Folk creator Russell T Davies tackles the Aids crisis in early 1980s London through the eyes of three young gay men, with the cast led by Years & Years frontman Olly Alexander in his first major role. Launching “soon”.
  • TV classics – It’s not all about new releases – now is the perfect time to finally binge on classic shows such as The West Wing (on All 4), Breaking Bad (Netflix) and The Vicar of Dibley (BBC iPlayer), while catching up on some of 2020’s finest dramas like Quiz (ITV Hub), Ozark (Netflix) and The Undoing (Now TV).

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  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – Starring Viola Davis as a formidable blues singer and the late Chadwick Boseman as an ambitious trumpeter – his final performance – this 1920s-set drama has made them both favourites to earn Oscars come April. On Netflix.
  • Mank – If you know your Hollywood history, you’ll enjoy this David Fincher-directed film starring Gary Oldman about how Herman J Mankiewicz wrote Citizen Kane. On Netflix.
  • Soul and Mulan – These two Pixar films will keep children entertained. Soul is an exploration of what makes us who we are, from the producers of Inside Out, while Mulan is a live-action remake of the 1998 animated film about a young warrior who takes her father’s place in battle. Soul and Mulan are on Disney+.
  • We Can Be Heroes – This was Netflix’s big family film over Christmas, about the children of superheroes. The supersprogs have to mount a rescue mission when their parents are captured by aliens. Priyanka Chopra stars. On Netflix now.

Molly Parker as Eva and Vanessa Kirby as Martha


  • Pieces of a Woman – This drama about a traumatic home birth could see The Crown star Vanessa Kirby score an Oscar nomination. On Netflix from Thursday 7 January.
  • Stardust – A biopic about David Bowie’s journey to becoming Ziggy Stardust, starring Johnny Flynn (but, as it’s not endorsed by Bowie’s estate, it can’t use any of his songs). Released on demand on Friday 15 January. Before that, Bowie’s 2015 stage musical Lazarus is being streamed for the first time from Friday 8 January (Bowie’s 74th birthday) to Sunday 10 January (the 5th anniversary of his death). Also on 8 January, there’s a Bowie Night on BBC Four, and a streamed tribute gig featuring his former bandmates and stars who he influenced.
  • Blithe Spirit – This rollicking adaptation of Noel Coward’s classic comedy stars Dame Judi Dench and Dan Stevens. It was due in cinemas before Christmas, but will now come out on Sky Cinema and Now TV on Friday 15 January.
  • One Night In Miami – Oscar-winning actress Regina King’s directorial debut is about the meeting between Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, NFL legend Jim Brown and singer Sam Cooke. On Amazon Prime from Friday 15 January.

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Costa Book Awards winning books

Costa Book Awards

  • Costa Book Awards winners – The five category winners were announced on Monday, before the overall Costa Prize victor is revealed on 26 January. Ingrid Persaud’s Love After Love was named best first novel; fellow Trinidadian Monique Roffey won best novel for The Mermaid of Black Conch; Lee Lawrence won the biography prize for The Louder I Will Sing: A Story of Racism, Riots and Redemption, tracing his fight for justice after his mother was shot by police in Brixton in 1985; Eavan Boland posthumously won the poetry award for The Historians; and Natasha Farrant won the children’s prize for Voyage of the Sparrowhawk.
  • A River Called Time by Courttia Newland – The seventh novel from Newland, who also co-wrote Steve McQueen’s recent Small Axe film series, is set in an alternative London where the privileged live in a giant Ark, and in a timeline in which slavery and colonialism never happened. Published on Thursday 7 January.
  • Memorial by Bryan Washington – This novel, which explores a gay relationship, is January’s most buzzed-about debut, and follows Washington’s short story collection Lot, which won the Dylan Thomas Prize and was recommended by Barack Obama. Published on Thursday 7 January.
  • The Stranger Times by CK McDonnell – A comic novel about a Manchester-based newspaper covering the paranormal, where the subjects of their stories come very close to home. Published on Thursday 14 January.

Romesh Ranganathan

Emma Farrer

  • As Good As It Gets by Romesh Ranganathan – Among the pre-Christmas rush of celebrity memoirs, this is a highly relatable book covering the problems with parenting, the difficulties of ageing and his obsession with hot sauce. Other memoirs came from Claudia Winkleman, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, Ant and Dec and Philip Schofield, plus there was Jasper Rees’s engaging and detailed biography of Victoria Wood.
  • The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman – The Pointless co-host’s debut novel, a cosy mystery about four elderly friends in a retirement village who investigate unsolved murders, was the UK’s biggest-seller over Christmas.
  • The Body by Bill Bryson – With coronavirus prompting renewed interest in health and wellbeing, this is a detailed account of how we function as human beings, written with more humour and personality than a traditional science book.

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Greentea Peng

Greentea Peng

  • BBC Sound of 2021 – The annual rundown of the hottest musical talents for the coming 12 months has a wealth of promising new artists waiting to be discovered. Find out more.
  • Fetch The Bolt Cutters by Fiona Apple – You can also catch up on some of the albums you may have missed in 2020. US singer-songwriter Apple’s experimental but rewarding record was the most critically acclaimed album of last year.
  • Evermore by Taylor Swift – Released in December, this saw the singer continue to explore the more mature and reflective sound she exhibited on July’s brilliant and best-selling Folklore. Perfect for a Sunday evening indoors.
  • Eminem’s Music To Be Murdered By (Side B) – Another of the biggest recent releases, this came less than a year after its predecessor, with 13 new songs that cemented his status as one of the greatest rappers. Listen closely – there are enough ingenious rhymes and thought-provoking lyrics to unpack here that it will be 2022 before you know it.
  • Certified Lover Boy by Drake – The Canadian rapper is likely to have January’s biggest new album. It’s his sixth studio album, with the last five all going to number one in the US.

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